Saturday, April 10, 2021

Princeton Award for Dr Toni De Mello

 In recognition of the many contributions of the late Edward P. “Buddy” Bullard, III. Awarded annually to Princeton's School of Public and International Affairs alumnus who works professionally with communities of colour and who serves as a mentor to current students of colour at Princeton SPIA. 

Bullard Award Recipient 2021

Toni de Mello (MPA '08)Dr Tanya (Toni) De Mello (MPA-URP '08)

(Toni's family were originally from Dar es Salaam)

With a background that includes finance, management consulting, public policy, urban and regional planning and law, Dr Tanya (who we call "Toni") De Mello has spent much of her career researching and addressing equity, diversity and inclusion with a focus on bias in the workplace. She is a human rights lawyer who has worked on issues of discrimination, harassment and sexual violence for the last decade. Through her extensive research, work and advocacy, Toni has become a leading expert in equity and inclusion in Canada.

Toni holds two Bachelors Degrees of Economics and Political Science from the University of Waterloo; a joint master’s degree in Public Affairs and Urban and Regional Planning (MPA-URP) from Princeton University; and a dual law degree from McGill University. She holds a Master of Education in Counselling and Psychotherapy from the University of Toronto. In July 2020, Toni completed her Phd in Social Justice Education at the University of Toronto, where she researched bias in the hiring of racialized people with a focus on Black candidates. 

Currently, Toni  is the Assistant Dean of Students at Canada’s newest law school, the  Lincoln Alexander School of Law at Ryerson University. The Lincoln Alexander School of Law is built on four pillars – a commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion; increasing access to justice; stimulating innovation and entrepreneurship; and providing sound academics with innovation pedagogy.  In Toni’s role as Assistant Dean of Students, she is responsible for Admissions, Careers and Student Experience and is leading the law school’s charge to create lawyers that work for the public interest and are committed to increasing access to justice. 

Toni’s focus on equity, diversity and inclusion is tangibly evident in the school's admission offer and acceptance data. Law schools in Canada and the United States are notorious for being elite and exclusive institutions with few racialized students relative to the talent pool available. Compared to other law schools in Canada, Ryerson’s Faculty of Law has among the highest number of racialized students, Black students and Indigenous students per capita in the first-year class and also boasts a high number of students that identify as woman, LGBTQ2SI+, people with disabilities and mature students, among others. 

Toni has also set up a scholarship at Ryerson for Black and Indigenous students to have greater access to studying law and has currently raised close to $100,000 for it. In her leadership position, she has hired and manages a team of 20 people, 80% of which are racialized, Black or Indigenous.

In addition to her work in the law school, Toni also teaches a course about global issues that focuses on inequality, poverty and climate change at Ryerson University.

Prior to Toni’s current position, she served as the Director of Human Rights at Ryerson University and she has also worked in human rights at the University of Toronto. In 2019, she was awarded Ryerson University's President's Blue and Gold Award, which is the highest honour for employees, for her work in human rights.  

As a consultant, Toni  works with major multinational corporations, government branches and non-profit organizations to improve hiring and retention practices of equity deserving groups, with a focus on increasing the representation of racialized people. In addition, she is an executive coach and works one-on-one with senior leaders ranging from vice-presidents to directors to deans to increase inclusive leadership in all sectors. She has worked with over 1500 organizations and businesses in the last 20 years. She is also the President of the Canadian Association for the Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment in Higher Education. 
Toni is deeply committed to working for access to justice and in human rights. In 2018, she was nominated by a national organization for the MAX Gala (Muslim Award for Excellence) as a Friend of the Community. This nomination was made by the Muslim-Canadian community to recognize the work of non-Muslims who are devoted to being allies and advancing the rights and representation of Muslim people in Canada. Although she did not win, the nomination, coming from the Muslim-Canadian community, meant more to her than the award.

In 2015, Toni ran for federal office in Canada in the area in which she grew up. She ran on a platform that fought for universal day care, affordable pharmacare, raising minimum wages and supporting public education and the universal health system. She lost (badly!) but it remains the hardest and most important thing she has done in Canada. She never even thought about running for office before then Dean Anne Marie Slaughter brought Toni into her office in the fall of 2005 and told her she had to run for Prime Minister in Canada or for a position in the United States. Toni thought it was outlandish at the time but now knows that was the first seed planted. 
Toni became interested in public service through grassroots volunteering. She grew up working in shelters and emergency relief. She has worked with the United Way, Habitat for Humanity and started a volunteer arm while at Princeton to engage graduate students to work in community service in neighbouring Trenton while at Princeton. In addition to founding two NGOs, Toni has served in the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and the World Food Programme in Geneva (Switzerland), Senegal (West Africa) and Columbia (South America). Today, she focusses her energies outside of work on local projects; as a trained psychotherapist, Toni volunteers at a programme that offers low-cost therapy for community members. 

At Princeton, Toni led two major service trips. The first engaged members of her first year class to travel to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to work in emergency relief with local community organizations. The second engaged members of her class  to go to Pakistan after the earthquake in 2005 to work in Kashmir, the area hardest hit. For both of these initiatives, and other work, she was awarded Princeton's International Service Award in 2006.
In addition to these major service trips, during her second year at Princeton, Toni initiated and led a trip where 25 undergraduate students campaigned for the various US primary election campaigns in 2008. Students worked in New Hampshire for a month on various campaigns and she worked for Barack Obama’s campaign. After completing this initiative, Toni continued her work for Barack Obama through several state-level primaries for the remainder of 2008 while finishing her degrees at Princeton.
Toni has been an avid supporter of SAOC and of racialized students on our campus. She has only missed two SAOC reunions since 2005 - one because she was working for the UN in Senegal and another because she was running for office in Canada. She has been active in speaking and helping with the organization of SAOC, mentoring current students and alums and working with Princeton to create sessions, conferences and panels that speak to issues of injustice, racism and other forms of systemic and institutional violence.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Bertha de Souza: a rare human being


Dr Bertha de Souza

A rare human being


By Cyprian Fernandes

ONCE IN A lifetime, sometimes more than once, we are privileged to meet an extraordinary personality. More often than not, when we do, we celebrate them from afar and when we are in their company, we can sense the air is filled with a kind of magic. The English poet Thomas Ford once wrote:

“There is a lady sweet and kind,

 Was never a face so pleased my mind;

 I did but see her passing by. And yet I'll love her till I die. Her gesture, motion, and her smiles,

 Her wit, her voice my heart beguiles …”

I won’t go that far. Yet, I always felt that the person I have in mind was special. Her smile could light up a darkened evening, her kindness, generosity, elegance and personality were the stuff of superstars. She always wore a sari and epitomized all that is great in Goan womanhood. I always admired her. Yesterday (April 6, 2011), a packed church, five priests, and several attendants bade farewell to a very special friend: Dr Bertha de Souza. It was one of the longest church services, nearly four hours before the hearse left the church. Her patients are legion and most of them were at the church in Cronulla.

We often say of one’s passing that the world is lesser for it. In Bertha’s case, it is absolutely true. She also very blessed and en route to join her husband, Dr Pat de Souza, she had what one of her sons described as a “happy exit” after a brief illness.  I spoke to her a couple of weeks ago and had arranged to meet “this week or next week”.

The thought that I will never see her again breaks my heart. She was a rare human being, pure.

Bertha was born in the village of Aldona in 1932, at her grandparents’ house. Her renowned father Dr Benedito de Souza delivered the baby. Her family lived in the village of Ucassaiam. She went to the local Portuguese school because Goa was still a Portuguese colony. Later she moved to Holy Cross Convent in Bardez, an English school in a nearby village where she learned to speak English.

She changed schools yet again and went to the St Thomas School in Aldona which offered science as a subject,

In 1949, she went to St Xavier’s college in Bombay to do her inter-science levels, years 9 and 10. She then qualified for entry for a medical degree but the colleges did not approve her admission because she was a Portuguese citizen of Goa and not an Indian National. Instead, she began her dentistry degree.

In 1952, after completing a year in Dentistry things changed, and Bertha was admitted to Grant Medical College to study medicine.  She once wrote: “I enjoyed the challenge of learning about what wonderful machine the human body is. The creator of this body is a genius without comparison.”

In 1958, after finishing her internship, she was forced to go to Aden to join her brother there and practising as a doctor but not before she had learned to speak Arabic. Here she met Pat de Souza (also from Aldona) among her brother’s friends. Pat and Bertha married a year later. She was given away by her mother because her father was unable to attend.

A clause in her contract stipulated that her position would be terminated if she got pregnant. They had three children, 15 months apart and a fourth a year later.

In Aden in 1960, the country was beset with political violence. They deiced to move to Australia but made a three-year stopover in Bangalore where a fifth child was born.

In 1969, they moved to the beachside suburb of Cronulla. They had been sponsored by a childhood friend of Pat’s, Mark Wade, the only person they knew when they arrived.

They soon bought a house in Cronulla, coincidentally named “Dela-Goa”. They made this a treasured home. Bertha lived there for 50 years. Pat de Souza died in 2012.

They were very popularly doctors in Cronulla.

They were one of the most popular couples with people of all colour and religions and generous supporters of community causes. They were godparents of the Goan Overseas Association of the NSW from its infancy. Pat and Bertha attended every event they could and Pat asked his daughter Susan to promise him she would attend every anniversary dance.

She keeps this promise diligently (COVID permitting of course).

The late Bertha and Pat de Souza

The de Souza dynasty:  

Children: Mark, Susan, Dunstan, Melanie and Nigel. In-laws Amanda, Glenn, Peter and Raelene. Grandchildren: Emily, Sophie, Thomas, Harry, Justin, Liam, Christophe, Andrea, Claudia, Lucy and Isabelle. Great-grandchildren: Florence, Harriet, Beatrix, Lottie and Josephine.

Monday, April 5, 2021


Sultan Somjee: One who dares

to dream is a prophet

Saturday, April 03, 2021


One who dreams is called a prophet

Published by Amazon

616 pages



Author Sultan Somjee who now lives in Burnaby, Canada, accepting a peace staff and leaves of a peace tree from a Pokot Elder

A forever thinking Sultan Somjee. 




This book is not for peace sceptics or peace unbelievers. Academic Evelin G. Lindner sums it up quite nicely and others have given comments on Sultan Somjee’s work in similar voice, especially, the venerable author and academic Prof Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, who spoke in a glowing voice at the virtual launch of the book in November 2020.

Dr Lindner, the founder of Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies, writes: The book “is indispensable reading for every citizen of this world who wishes to work for a worthwhile future for our children. Somjee presents his profound insight into the peace building traditions of Africa (my words: particularly Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan) in a deeply touching narrative of dignity and humiliation. Reading this book is a life-changing experience.”

Even as child, a schoolboy at St Teresa’s Boys’ School in Eastleigh, Nairobi, Somjee was always a thinker. He was a quiet classmate and someone everyone called a friend. He was a dedicated student, too. However, he was not much into sports or the social hijinks some of his other friends got up to each day. He was special, but we did not know exactly just how special he was. He has Kenya’s red soil running through his veins, even though he now lives in Vancouver, Canada.

One Who Dreams is Called a Prophet is a work of fiction but anyone who knows that the protagonist, old man Alama, is Somjee or a representative of everyone who has walked the path of seekers of peace during conflicts, especially his assistants. Central to the Kenyan peace experience are the peace museums which are home to traditional cultural artefacts of peace such as the Pokot woman’s waist belt called leketyo, going back a long time. All these are described in the book.


Peace exists

Every page has a charm of its own. Here’s a little sample. “Alama was so excited that he forgot about the woman with the calabash. He would put his questions with caution lest he offended the wise one of the Council of the Sovereign Tree of Peace. When he was little his mother used to tell him. “If it is wisdom you seek from the elder, then ask as if you are eating hot ugali. If you plunge your hand in the middle of the steaming cake, you will get burned. You break hot ugali from the side, a little at a time.” Little by little I will draw wisdom from the Mukwe man, thought Alama.

 “I beg you my age mate, please give me the knowledge of where peace exists.

“Let us walk west together. I must reach the Council of the Sovereign Tree of Peace before dusk,” said the Mukwe elder as he picked up his staff ready to walk. Alama’s finger tapped to count the four-notched bulges along the banded waist cloth that had the bills. Then he felt the sharp edge of his plastic identity card at his navel alongside the mother knife and horn container, all tucked into the folded cloth band. He was ready to walk now but he did not see Koko Kigongo at the spot by the fire that belonged to the woman with the calabash.

Alama looked around the bush, and around the fire again and again. He even went to the rock where had prayed just in case he had carried Koko Kigongo with him to the Dawn prayers …

Every page is filled with poetic wonder. It is another world that we did know existed. There is majesty in the simplicity in Alama’s mighty long search for peace. The good news is that Alama/Somjee found it and you can find the answers in 617 pages of a pure kind of magic.

For four decades, Sultan Somjee has worked on material culture. He introduced learning about indigenous knowledge through material culture in the Kenyan school curriculum (1985-1990). While he was the Head of Ethnography at the National Museums of Kenya, Somjee started village peace museums.

The museums highlight indigenous languages, material culture and the arts used over generations for reconciliation and social cohesion. Today, the peace museums have spread from Kenya to Uganda and South Sudan as a people-to-people civil society movement.

 In 2001, the United Nations named Somjee one among the only twelve ‘Unsung Heroes of Dialogue Among Civilizations’ worldwide in recognition of his work. In 2002, Somjee was appointed on the Global Advisory Board of Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies.


One Who Dreams is Called a Prophet is inspired by the author-ethnographer’s journey into the world of material culture, storytelling, indigenous African knowledge and nature that describe Utu, Swahili for ‘being mtu’ or simply ‘being human’. All over traditional Africa, the principle of Utu or Ubantu is used in reconciliation and sustaining peace.

Somjee wrote a few years ago: “I started working on Kenya’s material culture in early 1970s at the Institute of African Studies, University of Nairobi. My work centred on collecting, exhibiting and teaching that did not involve the communities whose artefacts I was gathering and using. They were the subjects of research, not the participants.

“Then 20 years later in 1994, having collected thousands of objects, made over 20 exhibitions ranging from ten to 60 items, and having worked among many ethnic groups, and having taught and introduced the teaching of material culture in the school curriculum, I began working on a Kenyan Material Culture Project with a different goal. The difference was on the focus that changed to the role of material culture in inter-ethnic face-to-face meetings. The project covered eight pastoralist groups.

“It was at the National Museums of Kenya where I was the Head of Ethnography that we began exploring knowledge of peace building that inhabit cultural memories... This material became the nucleus to develop the new Kenyan Material Project that was initiated in 1994...We then documented this information, organised, and presented it back to the communities to foster conversations both within and across ethnicities.”

 Many stories about reconciliation were told. In real life, the little boy from Eastleigh has walked many thousands of miles in search of peace heritage among the indigenous people, may he continue to do so many more thousands of miles to sustain his dream.

Somjee, In the beginning: In the mid-1970s while working with workers and peasants who were the backbone of the rural theatre at Kamirithu (Ngugi wa Thiong’o described this as bringing the theatre to the people as opposed to people coming to the theatre), I was confronted, as it were, by community-based knowledge, creativity and power of the collective intellect vis-a-vis the Western academy I was trained in. I came to understand how ‘grassroots work”, so often idealized in academic tests and workshops, was done. I became immersed in the embodied arts of the worker-peasant drama group speaking to itself and to the authorities at the same time.

Their bodies and voices expressed historical memories in their mother tongue questioning the misinterpretation of their culture, history and the legitimacy of the kinship rulers who kept them divided and poor. In that, it was a civil society formed around the arts. Jomo Kenyatta’s paramilitary razed the theatre, but they could not erase Kamirithu from our memory.

While setting up museums of peace during the conflicted times of the 1990s. I used the Kamirithu methodology. I remember Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Ngugi wa Miri, the writers of the banned play Ngahika Ndeenda. I remember Kimani Gecau, it is director and acknowledge the Kamirithu community with gratitude for setting me on a life-long journey where the community is the school.

It was not always an easy ride. Ngugi was Thiong’o spoke at length about Somjee’s heroism in the face of persecution by successive governments. Somjee may have even saved a few lives by helping frontline colleagues escape to nearby African countries. He writes: “Along the way we faced obstacles like sometimes the repressive government would not allow us to plant peace trees to manifest and commemorate a site of massacre.”

Secret police would monitor workshops and Somjee and the members of his team would often be followed by these secret policemen. However, many of his students and assistants continue the walk today despite enormous difficulties.

“The continue to dream and expand the project with occasional funding from NGOs ad through people-to-people efforts across cultures and borders. They are the proud curators and initiators of their own community museums of peace in Kenya, Uganda, and South Sudan,” Somjee writes.

Their journeys gather, save and pass on community narratives about wide-ranging found in material culture, storytelling, songs, dances, parables and riddles. For generations these varied indigenous arts and language traditions have informed villages how to live as communities with other communities, according to Somjee.

“This book is about my journey with my field assistants and student curators. It is told in one voice as one continuous journey that merges many voices and many journeys over a period of 30 years.”

According to Somjee: “The curators (of peace museums and other peace projects) are the true prophets because they dare to dream amid inequality and injustices, misrule and corruption that has gripped Kenya for decades and does not seem to go away.

The writer is a former ‘Nation’ journalist and Sultan Somjee’s classmate at St Teresa’s Boys' School, Eastleigh.



Sunday, March 21, 2021

Goan History: Listen to Chico Fonseca


From Tonto de Freitas

FIVE  videos of 75-year old Goan icon Chico Fonseca talking about his life and singing Portuguese and Konkani songs. He has travelled the world with his guitar and sung with the likes of Harry Belafonte! I was particularly moved by his Konkani Farewell song, faulty though it was because of his age, because I remember so many parties where my dad and mum sang that song with people of their generation. It was a sentimental song and the old folks were visibly moved as they sang songs like these.

Playing *Goa*

On his musical journey

On doctor-musicians and serenading in the 1950s and around then

On Latin-influenced music in the Goa of the past

On Konkani's farewell song, his travels with the guitar &c

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Giant Prawns of Goa and Bombay


Prawns in Bombay

My paternal grandfather, Zose de Freitas ("Tonto Zose"{ (short for Zose who limps)  to his friends), was a fisherman in Chorao, Goa. He was a man of humble means, so seafood featured largely in the family diet as his cantai (net) fetched him a free haul of prawns and small fish daily from the nearby irrigation canals, enough to feed his family - and then some. He had a paddy field and a vegetable patch, coconut palms and a hillside plot with cashew trees. The cashew crop provided him with an ample supply of cashew wine (cajel) and cashew liquor (feni). In those days, few people in his part of the village had luxuries and he did not aspire to be a bhatkar (wealthy landowner). 

My grandmother, Ana Carlota, longed to move from the shack in which she had raised her son and two daughters. Her dream came true when her son, Gabriel (my father), found employment in East Africa and saved enough to buy land from the Vas family in the vicinity of Capella Sacra Familia (the Chapel of the Holy Family). Tonto Zose had died by then but Gabriel made sure his mother lived in comfort for the rest of her life.

Now you can understand why I love seafood. The yearning for it comes to me honestly through my de Freitas genes! During our stay in Chorao, we were invited for lunch by a relative in the sister village of Piedade on the nearby island of Divar. He was very much like my grandfather. Early in the morning, the tide was right, so he went fishing with his cantai. The lunch consisted of his catch. It was a feast fit for a king. There were prawns cooked in every conceivable way. The largest were "butterflied" and fried with a semolina coating, the medium ones were fried with onions, the smaller ones were used for a sweet coconut curry, and the small fish were fried crisp so you could crunch the bones. I drool just recalling that splendid lunch served by our relatives! 


The attached video was shot in Bombay but as far as seafood is concerned, Goa has it all and what you get is fresh, mouth-watering - and inexpensive! Enjoy your virtual meal!






Wednesday, March 10, 2021

A tribute to Joaquim D'Souza


American Poet Anne Sexton – “It doesn’t matter who my father was: it matters who I remember he was” 

Joaquim D’Souza ascended to his heavenly father on March 6th 2021; 16 days shy of his 93rd birthday. His soul met his creator with his life-long companion of 62 years, Martha, by his bedside. He was a caring father and father-in-law to Arleen and Tyronne; Everett and Michele; Hayley and Merwyn; and Tansy, even though at times, due to his hard childhood, he struggled to openly show his emotions. His four children had a carefree, well provided young life, blessed by a place we still treasure as our “first home” in North Lavington. He was a loving grandfather to Ralston (Stacey), Kielan (Yujin), Kyle and his lovable Ariella. He now has but one surviving brother, Francis, in Brighton, England and the youngest sister Dolly in Georgia, USA.

Joaquim Victor D’Souza was born in Assagao, Goa on March 22nd 1928 and made the journey to Kenya at the tender age of two with his bold parents Ana and Paulo seeking new frontiers. At 10 years of age he returned with his mother and siblings to India to study, enduring hardships brought on by World War II. His favorite story being, how they had to steal big pumpkins to feed eight hungry mouths with his dad isolated at a train station in the middle of the Kenyan bush. He none the less completed his high school in 1947 at the Jesuit school of St Paul’s in Belgaum. Due to financial limitations he had to forego any further higher learning and with his 6 siblings in tow needing a better quality of life, sought his fortune back in Kenya. His work history included a brief stint in Standard Bank, ten years with a luxury car dealership and then in 1960 he joined The Old Mutual where he worked for 36 years, rising through the ranks by sheer hard work and merit, to retire in 1994 as the Assistant Manager. On retirement his expertize got him re-employed for 3 additional years in the capacity of a consultant. For his many years of service he was awarded a deserving company-paid trip through the European continent.   

Joaquim immigrated to the US end 1999 to be closer to the family, especially the grandchildren. In 2008 he went to Portugal, a gift to him and Martha for their 50 years of marriage. It was always their dream to visit Fatima and wonderful friends in Portugal; so on their return, instead of being exhausted they shocked the family saying it was but too short a trip. With daughter Hayley in Australia, the South Pacific also made it to the “to do” list.    

He was a gifted athlete and at St. Paul’s held the record for the mile for 3 consecutive years. In Nairobi he dribbled his hockey stick and batted the cricket ball at the club level for the Railway Goan Institute. What competition during the English Premier league as the staunch Manchester United fan had to put up against us Chelsea and Arsenal fans – this all exacerbated during the World Cup. 

A keen philatelist, his collection was always, as expected, meticulously stored. He subscribed to the Reader’s Digest magazine and bought their reference books; enticing exploration of diverse knowledge. And of course you had to go through the daily newspapers; now a thing of the past. Neat and methodical were his banking and medical files. And his handwriting was something to behold. If there was one thing to miss in America as a grown-up child, was waking up to his early morning pot-boiled Kenyan coffee brew and multi-ingredient scrambled eggs. Not the master chef; but in his eighties, when the roles reversed, with his wife wheelchair-bound, he was her caretaker-divine and made his own sorpotel at 89. 

A man of character and faith; he never missed his Sunday Mass and always attended attired in the proverbial Sunday best. A man always willing to give financially to his fellow man be it his family or children or someone in a faraway land. His first house in Nairobi is now a place of God with nuns praying for his soul and he is referred to as a benefactor of the resident Daughters of St. Anne (ironically St. Anne’s husband was also named Joaquim). Every bit the gentleman, he was always well groomed; this almost to his end. His affable personality was a draw, making him the darling in the crowd – always playing the perfect host, with never a glass or plate awanting. 

How do you say goodbye to someone who was your rock? I think it’s when you finally realize that you cannot because so much of him is really now you. 

Much love and gratitude 

Due to the current restrictions and rehab regulations, there will be a private wake followed by a funeral mass open to all at 12 noon March 11th at St Peter the Apostle, 179 Baldwin Rd, Parsippany, NJ 07054. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to one of dad’s favorite charities – Salesian Missions, 2 LeFevre Ln, New Rochelle, NY 10801. May his soul rest in peace!

For those who are unable to attend and would like to view the funeral mass LIVE, kindly go to

On the site look for LIVE and click the arrow. Select the current stream or if viewing at a later time click on previous broadcasts and select the funeral

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Insights into Colonial Goa, Our history


Insights into Colonial Goa


Why and how did Colonial Britain recruit Goans?? History undoubtedly belongs to the past, but understanding it is the duty of the present generation. In 2020 (pre-Brexit), the British print media published derogatory articles which portrayed Goans as opportunists who abused the EU immigration system by making a backdoor entry into the UK via Portugal. This scenario raises the interesting questions of why and how Goans became familiar with the British and vice versa.

The following are abstracts from our recently published book, Insights into Colonial Goa, which traces Goan emigration to British India, the Mid-East and Africa. In 1510, Goa was the first Asian territory to become a European colony. Following that, Portugal acquired several enclaves along the coasts of the Indian Ocean (East Africa, Mid-East and India) and around the South China Sea (South-East Asia). Portugal controlled the lucrative Silk Lane maritime trade of Asian spices to Europe after outmaneuvering the Arab-Venetian monopoly of the traditional over-land route along the Silk Road.

As a result of their successful trading in spices, Portugal and Goa reached their socio-political and economic zenith in the 16th and 17th centuries -- a golden era for both. After a century of Lusitanian dominance over the spice trade, other European powers such as the Dutch, the English and the French also ventured into that specialty get-rich-quick commerce. Old Goa served as the prestigious capital of Portugal’s eastern empire from 1530 to 1961; when colonization ended and Goa became part of India. After a century of Lusitanian dominance over the spice trade, other European powers such as the Dutch, the English and the French also ventured into that specialty get-rich quick commerce.

From their capital in Goa, the Portuguese oversaw their coastal enclaves both north and south of Goa, extending from Surat to Quilon. Of strategic importance were the islands of Bon Bahia (later called Bombay), which were handed over to the English in 1661 as part of Catherine Braganza’s dowry when she married Charles II. More than a century later, not only did England trade with India; but after the Battle of Plassey in 1757, ruled parts of the country. Portugal developed the model for Asian colonization in 1510, but it was the English who perfected the system. With sophisticated weaponry and devious manipulations, the English turbocharged the process of annexations in the 19th and 20th centuries.

During the early days of colonization, Portugal recruited Goans as seamen-apprentices, especially for the return voyage to Portugal and after they had experienced high death rates of sailors on the outgoing voyage from Lisbon. The 17th century witnessed some Goan emigration to Portuguese colonies, including ports along the East African coast especially Lourenco Marques (now called Maputo) and Beira in Mozambique. Some Goan émigré groups were displaced when the Omanis took control over Portuguese held Malindi, Mombasa, and Zanzibar.

However, when these later areas became British colonies, other Goan groups were recruited to settle in those areas. A chess game indeed! The British understood the importance of having an efficient and reliable administrative support staff in their colonies. The rulers were also keenly aware of the difficulties in recruiting British-born workers to re-locate to the colonies, despite the extraordinarily high compensation offered to them.

Fortuitously for the British, Indian employees were willing to work for much lower remuneration and provided their services with eagerness as well as loyalty to the boss – an observation Portugal had made two hundred years earlier. The first time the British experienced significant exposure to Goan culture was when England occupied Goa (1799-1813) as part of The Metheun Treaty of 1703 (one of the longest lasting mutual-defense treaties between two countries). However, Goans had experienced European ways of life for almost 300 years prior to British occupation of Goa.

As the British became increasingly familiar with their Goan subjects, the rulers appreciated the natives’ tolerant, contented, relaxed personalities, education, apparel, lifestyle, diet, and work skills. Forward thinking, progressive priests and nuns, in the Old Conquest of Goa must be given due credit for establishing primary schools in almost every parish as well as expanding the Goa-diocese-run parish schools to other enclaves.

The parish schools provided students of all religions and castes the ability to read and write in the Latin script as well as learn the basics of math and science -- The 3 Rs – like levels of western education of the time. Goans also developed skills at European cuisine – vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes, including ham and bacon, and baking. The clergy also taught Goans to play western musical instruments and sing in church choirs.

Goan musicians became the mainstay for entertainment at official and social events in clubs and gymkhanas on land and at sea. Until recently, only Goans provided musical accompaniment on the violin, guitar and concertina for Bollywood movies.

Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay had plans to design the education system within the Raj. But long before the 1835 Macaulay report, the Lusitanian, especially the parish schools in 1600s, had well-established forms of education both in Goa as well as Portugal’s enclaves along the west coast of India. According to Macaulay, “education in the colony should train a narrow class of persons Indian in blood and color, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect.” Large numbers of Goans began immigrating to Bombay, which was rapidly expanding economically.

At school, the newly-arrived studied alongside children of other Luso-Indians (later called East Indians and Mangalorean) and of other ethnic groups including Parsees, Hindus, Muslims, Anglo-Indian, British and Irish military personnel as well as other servicemen. As Lusocentric and later Anglo-centric, Goans represented a fine-tuned model; the education they received from Franciscan, Jesuit and other teachers paralleled Macaulay’s vision. In short, Goans were well-positioned to be employed by the British in India and in their overseas colonies. Over time, the western educated class -- Hindus and Christians -- became pillars of the political establishment and apologists for colonialism both in India and in Goa. These included stalwarts like the Nehrus (father and son), Gandhi, Jinnah, and others who went to England for further studies.


Getting skilled help in Asia, the Middle-East and Africa posed a difficult challenge, and the English were keen in recruiting and holding-on to their well-trained and valued assistants. Bombay Presidency (the largest of the three presidencies within the Raj) served as the stepping stone for English Civil Servants and officers (civilian and military) and their Goan protégés prior to postings across southern Asia, the Middle-East and Arabian Peninsulas, as well as Africa. The presidency also served as a boost for Goan communities and parish schools and colleges (for boys and girls) in Bombay and attracted more Goans to migrate to Bombay in the hopes of gaining employment and higher education. In 1878, the Anglo-Portuguese treaty facilitated Goan migration to British territory just as Portugal-Goa connections were on the decline and replaced by Portugal-Brazil axis. Brazil had replaced Goa in the Lusitania crown.

The Goans that made Bombay their home were called Bomoicars. Other major Goan enclaves in the Raj were in Calcutta, Poona and Karachi. The Persian Gulf Arab states were mainly Aden. The English-speaking world home to Goans was colonial territories in Africa and south-east Asia. The Portuguese and Christian education lit the fuse of Western thought-process among Goans. The British turbo-charged the slow burning spark of Goan and East Indian transformation under the British Raj in Bombay.

There were Lusophones and Anglophones. Unfortunately, they also made distinctions that did not exist between and within the groups. Then and even more now, there is motivated sociology to promote divisions among the populace. From the Portuguese fidalgo to the English Nabob, we now had the natives in India who sprung from obscurity, to acquire great wealth, and on occasion spend it extravagantly. Thanks to the supportive staff, the British were much more successful in building railway lines in Africa, (to use just one metric), than were other colonial powers such as the Germans or the Belgians in that continent. In addition, the British expanded their hold on East African territories from coastal ports to the entire region of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rhodesia and other inland territories of Africa. They were able to prevail in their endeavors due, in large part, to their hard-working assistants, significantly comprising Goans.

The French, in contrast, achieved only minimal success in recruiting residents of their colony in Pondicherry to work in French-ruled African colonies. It was not long before word spread that Goans were productive employees, which led British vassals, allies and rivals in Asia, Mid-East and Africa to recruit Goans to work for them. Goans who settled in British East Africa were called Afrikanders. The recruited Goans had the full range of socio-economic skills from professionals like doctors and engineers to the ABC of society. And they were recruited as civil servants for the government, and government services like rail, post and telegraph, customs; private business, navy and merchant fleet; and in private capacity as domestic help. Goans who worked in shipping and British territories located in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Europe regularly repatriated their earnings to Goa, thereby making valuable contributions to the Portuguese economy. The system was even given official recognition as the Remittance Economy.

The Afrikanders, Bomoicars, shippies, and others returned to Goa (to their ancestral home) for vacation, to find a spouse, retire or for ill-health. Depending on where they lived and worked, Goans were categorized as either Anglophone Goans or Lusophone Goans. It has been said that the best crystal ball is a rear-view mirror. During the Raj, Anglophile Indians self-servingly wanted “Dominion status” for their native land (like Canada and Australia) to be associated with the mother-country.

Lusophile Goans wanted something similar for Goa. But due to draconian restrictions, the educated class split into icons of colonialism and anti-colonialism. Beyond providing lipservice, the European countries had no intention of granting rights and freedoms to those living in their colonies, both in India and Goa, which led the younger generation of natives to demand total freedom from colonization. The seeds of affinity for the West planted during the colonial era continue even today across India and other colonies. “We are here because you were there” is the writing on a poster at a protest march in London.

Please feel free to forward this message to other Goan, Indian and Portuguese websites and share it with your friends and relatives on other social platforms. We hope you enjoy reading this article and the book as much as we loved writing it. Your thoughts and feedback are welcome. Thank you for your attention.

Regards, Philomena and Gilbert Lawrence.

For more details please see “Insights into Colonial Goa”

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